Me: You see, Mark Smith’s work on sensual history is important because it approaches human decision making that happens at a non-rational level. Many cultural decisions are made, quite literally, in the guts.
My friend: ?
Historian at conference: So… you are dealing with the people that Heryman talked about?
Me: Not really, more like the people McCurry talked about.
Historian at conference: Ohhh, I see. [These are actually the same people.]
Maybe its because I’m in the dissertation stage, but I can’t even talk about history without invoking the scholarly apparatus. It is useful talking to other historians, because, you know, shorthand, but forget about talking history with normal people. That’s a problem I have, not a problem that normal people have. (I envy normal people.)
That’s a shame because I like explaining things. I liked explaining things when in museums and it turns out that’s what I like about teaching. I don’t just like explaining how things in history happened, but how history itself works, and that’s my problem.
Today, Yoni Appelbaum explained that one advantage to popular historical writing on the internet is the opportunity to expose historical methods to a broad public. He referred to the ability to link directly to primary source material on Google Books and repositories. He, obviously, has the chops to make it happen.
I, on the other hand, would like to spend all day explaining how and why of historical methods, too, but I end up getting hung up in the apparatus and never get around to telling historical stories.* Too bad because I think that a key forum for engagement between weirdos like me and normal people is this whole long-form/e-short/b**essay thing that Appelbaum and Dan Cohen are talking about (and some people are doing.) I've just got to disentangle my voice, for starters.
Ok, here’s are a few stories. The most interesting monument on the troubled South Carolina statehouse grounds is the Mexican War monument. I wasn’t expecting how cool that is. Columbia—at least parts—is nicer than I had ever dared imagined. I ate two plates of barbecue and chicken at the Palmetto Pig (not including the bowl of banana pudding), but should have stopped at one. I had the mustard sauce, and liked it.The hash on rice? No, not so much. And I've only see two palmetto bugs so far.
*In the standard public history grad-school exercise regarding the infamous Enola Gay exhibit —the solution I came up with was an exhibit element that discussed how the curators developed their particular approach. It’s a theme with me, I guess.
**A name so universally reviled, I can’t even type it. But it’s the excellent Dan Cohen proposal.